The mission of the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFO A) is “to enable a manufacturing-based revolution—the transformation of traditional fibers, yarns and textiles into highly sophisticated, integrated and networked devices and systems, and facilitate the conversion of the textile industry into an Intellectual Property-differentiated, value-added, high-tech industry.”
To that end, the AFFOA has issued its first call for projects, specifically requesting advanced fabric product prototypes that will lead to pilot production and new business models for commercial manufacturing of fabric-based products. Projects should result in prototypes that demonstrate “a revolutionary fabric capability well beyond current state of the art,” the AFFOA call says.
A comprehensive effort
In its recent announcement, AFFOA says, “The convergence of device technology into fiber and textile production, enabling wireless connectivity and big data tools, will lead to fabrics that . . . see, hear, sense, communicate, store and convert energy, regulate temperature, monitor health, and change color while delivering the conventional qualities of textiles [to benefit commercial consumers and military personnel].”
Goals of this scope need collaborative brain power. “We’ve developed an ecosystem that includes universities, companies and agencies, and we’ve already had success,” says Eric Spackey, AFFOA’s chief marketing officer.
“Recently, a designer created a new fabric that communicates. The design went to a mill to weave this fabric that had never been woven before. Then to a finisher, then to a cutter, who both had to figure out how to work with this brand new material and retain its communication capabilities. We went from idea to finished product in less than three weeks. That’s the power of collaboration,” Spackey says.
A range of markets are specified, but proposals are not limited to their list, which includes aerospace, apparel, architectural/interiors, consumer electronics, defense, health care (devices and pharmaceuticals), machinery, transportation, communications and software. Prototype systems can be composed of wovens, nonwovens, knitted and fabric-based composite structures.
Projects will have an end goal of manufacturing for specifics and systems. All four manufacturing thrusts outlined below should be included in a working prototype:
- Computer-Aided Design of Integrated Textiles (CAD-IT) – Includes component and system computer design tools and/or computational modeling and simulation of properties and performance.
- Fiber Yarn Devices (FYD) – FYD are fibers and yarns that have device attributes and enable fabric system-level capabilities; encompasses all methods of monofilament and yarn device production.
- Textile System and Assemblies (TSA) – Begins with producing textiles from FYD through woven, knitted and nonwoven approaches. Fabrics are then assembled into finished product form using subsequent processing steps including dyeing, lamination, coating, printing, cut and sew, and composite formation.
- System Integration and Testing (SI) – Encompasses the integration of the fabric product into a working, validated system; includes electrical interconnects, power integration, data storage, inference algorithms and fabric system testing. Product prototype testing should consider durability, washability, shrinkage, stretch, temperature and mechanical properties.
AFFOA has proposed certain topics for prototypes that are considered appropriate. These include climate control; construction fabrics and composites; color and appearance; monitoring and acting; physiological and performance monitoring; on-demand chemical release; fabric optical communication; touch/user interfaces; energy; and engineered properties. Objectives for these topics are available on the AFFOA website.
“Made in America” manufacturing is at the heart of AFFOA’s mission, and teamwork is encouraged. Innovators in the academic, government and business communities may address “the spectrum of challenges associated with volume manufacturing of revolutionary fibers and textiles.”
“Right now a bunch of companies are growing in the same direction and looking to do something bigger. Collaboration will make that possible,” Spackey says.
AFFOA will facilitate the gathering of talented minds by hosting a Members Day and by designing a microsite, so individuals across the supply chain can list their skills and identify each other as prospective collaborators. All participants must be AFFOA members at the time of proposal submission.
Proposals will address each participant’s willingness to share IP and individual know-how, with the recognition that patents and trade secrets protect IP. AFFOA asserts that “protection of this information does not exclude an organization from participating in a project.”
Funding and evaluation
Project Call 1.0 is expected to distribute $3 million to $8 million annually. Individual projects will garner between $500,000 and $1 million per year. AFFOA predicts an average successful project will run two to three years.
Projects will be evaluated on a host of criteria, from adherence to AFFOA’s mission and its U.S. manufacturing commitment, to factors such as technology, learning capture assessment, manufacturing readiness level viability, licensing plans and cost realities.
The organization has incorporated all aspects of its broad mission in Project Call 1.0. “AFFOA is creating a virtual foundry network based on diverse member capabilities, facilitating a quick move from ideation to product realization,” says Spackey. “We’re looking at rebuilding U.S. manufacturing—through advanced manufacturing and smart jobs, because highly functional fibers and fabrics demand highly trained people.”
White paper submissions and questions should be sent by email to email@example.com. White papers are due Jan. 17, 2017. Notification of selection of white papers for full proposal will be Feb. 17, 2017 (expected), and full proposals will be due March 17, 2017 (expected). Visit http://join.affoa.org for more information and to access a white paper template.